Tommy's Bike Ride

I have been planning to write another blog post since completing the 110mile bike ride I did with Beth’s cousin Robert back at the end of august. I want to cover the bike ride and how I found it physically and emotionally, so much has happened since. We have had a very busy few months with lots of exciting things happening, along with some things that really are not.

So, my bike ride for Tommy’s. I was originally planning to complete the Ride100 from London, but with Madeline being born at the beginning of July Beth was still having some mobility issues and it wouldn’t have been fair to leave her for 3 days.

I don’t know why I chose the Ilse of Wight, I guess it was probably due to its proximity to the coast, beaches and the sea. We spent so much of our time visiting beaches along the south coast when we lived near Gatwick and family boat trips over to the isle of Wight with Beth’s Uncle and Auntie Jo made it a special place. It was already a special place for Beth’s family as they’d had many trips over with her Nan.

Little did I know, but the Isle of Wight was not at flat as I had thought. I was glad to have done the ride with Robert, he is a keen cyclist with loads of experience. He had forgotten how what the island was like too.

We left Beth’s uncle and aunties house on Shoreham beach early in the morning to catch an 11am ferry over to the island. It was a 45 mile stretch to Portsmouth and it was lovely and flat, the perfect warm up for the island. It was great, riding through little villages that id only ever driven through. You get a lot more time to look around when you are on a bike.

With a bit of luck, we made it to Portsmouth with plenty of time to spare. The ferry ride was a welcome rest for my legs and backside. The 45 miles we had just ridden was the furthest I’d rode on a bike since I did the London to Brighton ride back in 2016, which was 54 miles. At this point I was feeling pretty pleased with myself; I wasn’t too worn out and felt good about the ride on the island.

When we arrived on the Isle of Wight we stopped to refuel, packing in the calories totally guilt free. The loop we planned to do around the island was 70 miles. When we had finished our lunch, I dawned on me the massive ride ahead. I thought to myself, surely, we could just ride back to Shoreham now and that would have been the 100 miles done. Maybe this was just because we had just had to ride up a very steep hill to get to the Co-op we stopped at in Ryde, or maybe I had just eaten too much and didn’t want to move.

Anyways, we got back on the bikes and our first planned stop was to be Bembridge. This was just under 7 miles from Ryde and we stopped there for a quick pint. I had been to Bembridge before with Beth’s Uncle Nigel and Auntie Jo. We had sailed over from Portsmouth in May 2016; it was just Austin and I as I think Bradley must have been at school. From Bembridge we rode on to Ventnor.

Bembridge Harbour

It was only an 11mile ride to Ventnor from Bembridge, but there was one massive hill on the way up to Luccombe Village. I managed to find a bench on the way up and had a quick break. It was amazing, the view down to the sea with the sun beaming down. I don’t usually get time to just stop, look and listen to my surroundings. And it was strangely emotional, after everything we have been through over the last couple of years, I could truly appreciate what I was looking at, if that makes sense? I realised what I was doing was a massive step for me. At the moment I was alone, Robert had ridden ahead. But looking down at my bike and seeing all those names. I wasn’t alone, I gets me emotional now thinking about it. I wasn’t alone, I had all those angels and stars right with me. I wasn’t alone, I knew then that all those parents that had allowed me to take their precious little one’s name along with me knew what I was doing and why. The rest of the stretch to Ventnor was tough, winding roads and hills but all made up when we got there. It was a lovely little town, lots of families enjoying the beach.

The view from the bench before I reached Luccombe Village

The next stretch of road had some of the nicest and some of the toughest parts of the ride. Once we had climbed out of Ventnor we didn’t stop again until we reached a village called Freshwater Bay 17 miles away. We had an amazing stretch of flat straight road on the way and we managed to get some good speed up and the views were amazing. But just as we approached Freshwater Bay there was a long hill climb, it went up and up and up. I rode up as far as I could, but I had to walk the rest of the way to the top.

I’m not sure what was playing through my mind at that point, but I had no phone signal and it was boiling hot and there was no shade. The walk to the top of the hill was so long and took ages. Rob is a super cyclist and carried on no problem, and I met him when I eventually got to Freshwater Bay.

On my way up the hill, looking back down from where I'd come

In the months around Henrys 2nd birthday in March, before the bike ride I had really begun to struggle with my mental health. It took me a while to pluck up the courage to go to the doctors to see how they could help. In the April I started taking anti-depressants, I have never had to take any regular medication before. After taking them for a few weeks my mood improved.

What I experienced on this long stretch of road really scared me. This is the first time I’ve spoken out about these feelings; I can’t even remember if I have even told Beth what I was going through (I’ll make sure I tell her before posting this though). Before I started to take the medication, I was experiencing suicidal thoughts. Not all the time, mainly on my journey to and from work. They seemed to take over when I was alone and didn’t have much to think about. They were mainly opportunistic thoughts, I was driving so it was always thoughts about driving my car off the road to see what would happen, what would happen if I died. It didn’t come into my mind to think about my family at home at all, all I could think about was Henry and how much I wanted him back. It’s so hard to think back realising what my mind was doing, but so pleased I can see how far I have come.

As I was walking along the path up this stupidly long hill. I realised how close I had come to the edge of the hill side, leading straight down to cliffs and then the sea. There the thoughts were again, how easy would it have been just to fall? to slip? I was almost at a point that I didn’t want to go on with the ride, I didn’t want to go on with life. And again, I wasn’t thinking about my family, I was thinking of me, of Henry and what had happened to him. I’m so glad I had spent so much time thinking, before I knew it, I was at the top ready for a ride down to the bay. And just like that the thoughts were gone, when I got to the bay Robert was waiting for me next to a shop, we filled up our waters, got an ice lolly, and I got my head clear once more.

I was ready for the rest of the ride. I can’t really remember stopping much after this. Maybe it’s because I just wanted to get home. We just carried on. All I remember was how painful it was, so painful I could barely sit down unless I ignored the pain. It was such a relief to arrive back at Ryde. It was time for some chips and a reluctant standing up ride down the pier to the ferry terminal.

I am so grateful for all the support I received for the ride, and especially to Robert for being my guide. I don’t think I would have been able to do it without him.

Thank you for having a read, I have found it so helpful over the last few months to write about my experiences, and even more now my mental health.

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